Thomas Wadhouse, also known as Thomas Wedders, was an 18th-century circus performer who had the largest nose ever recorded at a whopping 7.5 inches long — but little else is known about his mysterious life.
In the 18th century, a man from Yorkshire attracted significant curiosity from his fellow Englishmen. They weren’t intrigued by his ideas, convictions, or opinions, but rather by his nose. Thomas Wadhouse, whose nose was 7.5 inches long, had the biggest nose ever recorded.
Also called Thomas Wedders, Wadhouse became something of a celebrity thanks to his extremely large nose. He was exhibited throughout the county, and he even made it into Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, a 19th-century book on rare and strange medical conditions.
Today, he holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest nose, and a wax replica of his head is even on display at London’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. But who was the man behind the nose? To date, Thomas Wadhouse’s story and identity is difficult to sniff out.
Who Was Thomas Wadhouse?
Very little is known about Thomas Wadhouse’s early life. He was born around 1730 in Yorkshire, England, and History of Yesterday reports that his parents may have been siblings. Perhaps it was this ill-advised genetic mixing that led to Wadhouse’s prodigious nose, but the true cause is unknown.
Born a century before “so-called freak shows” really took off, Wadhouse nevertheless appears to have exhibited himself — and his nose — across the county. The entry about Wadhouse in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine briefly explains: “Early in the last century Thomas Wedders (or Wadhouse) with a nose 7 1/2 inches long was exhibited throughout Yorkshire.”
So, what was Thomas Wadhouse like? Other sideshow performers had sharp minds beneath their infamous faces. Lionel The Lion-Faced Man (real name: Stephan Bibrowski) for example spoke five languages and dreamed about being a dentist. But Wadhouse developed a very different reputation.
The Man Behind The Nose
The few writings about Thomas Wadhouse that exist all suggest the same thing. Unlike Bibrowski, Wadhouse was no great thinker.
“[Wadhouse] expired as he lived, in a condition of mind best described as the most abject idiocy,” Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine explains.
The Strand Magazine, Vol XI also wrote of Thomas Wadhouse and his famous nose in 1896, noting that if “noses were ever uniformly exact in representing the importance of the individual,” then Wadhouse would have “amassed all the money in Threadneedle Street and conquered all Europe.”
But Thomas Wadhouse’s large nose wasn’t indicative of any great abilities, the magazine decided. They continued: “Either his chin was too weak or his brow too low, or Nature had so exhausted herself in the task of giving this prodigy a nose as to altogether forget to endow him with brains; or perhaps, the nose crowded out this latter commodity.”
Still, it’s unclear what led Thomas Wadhouse to exhibit himself. Maybe he felt he couldn’t turn his nose up at the opportunity. Or maybe he was led into such a life by others, given Wadhouse’s reputation for low intelligence.
In any case, Thomas Wadhouse died in his 50s around 1780. He left behind no record of his life, no written testimonies to how he felt about his face or the exhibitions that he participated in. Unlike sideshow performers in later eras, there aren’t even any photographs of Wadhouse (though wax replicas of his face have been displayed in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not).
But Thomas Wadhouse did leave behind his legacy as the man with the largest nose — and he still holds that record to this day.
The Man With The Longest Nose
Today, Guinness World Records acknowledges Thomas Wadhouse as the man with the longest nose in recorded human history. On their site, they explain: “There are historical accounts that Thomas Wedders, who lived in England during the 1770s and was a member of a traveling freak circus, had a nose measuring 19 cm (7.5 in) long.”
But that begs the question — who is the man with the longest nose today? The Guinness World Record site has an answer to that, too. Currently, the record holder for the longest nose is Mehmet Özyürek of Artvin, Turkey, whose nose is an impressive 3.46 inches long.
“I am very happy with my nose and I don’t have any intention to change it. I always had a feeling I was going to go places and be someone because of my nose,” Özyürek said, according to the Guinness World Record site.
Though certainly sizeable, Özyürek’s nose pales in comparison to Wadhouse’s. Records suggest that Wadhouse’s nose was four inches longer.
Whether or not Thomas Wadhouse felt similarly warm feelings as Özyürek about his sizeable nose is unknown. But whatever his sentiments were, Wadhouse’s 7.5-inch nose made him famous — and wrote him into history.
After reading about the life and death of Thomas Wadhouse, the man with the world’s largest nose, discover the strange story of “Big Nose George,” the Wild West outlaw who was hanged — and then turned into a pair of shoes. Or, discover some of the fascinating stories behind “freak show” performers of the 19th and 20th centuries.